In Living Color: Meet Denise Byer, Color Guru at Gap

Gap
Being trend-right for our customers means making sure we showcase each season’s hottest colors in stores and online — but how do our designers know what colors are going to be in fashion when they start working on future collections? And how do we make those colors wearable? That’s where Denise Byer comes in. As Gap’s Senior Manager of Color Services, she’s at the helm of color curating for Gap’s collections each season. (Her job is as dreamy as it sounds.)
 
We got an inside look at her colorful world (complete with an endless library of swatches and inspiration boards) to hear more about her how one ends up as a color guru for one the world’s largest clothing brands, and what her process looks like behind the scenes of each collection.

Being in charge of color is one of the coolest job descriptions we’ve ever heard. What does your role involve?
I collaborate closely with the creative team leads to research and pinpoint the key color and market trends that ultimately help us create the color story for each season. We work those themes into color palettes for kids, men’s, women’s, and body products, for all of our specialty, online and outlet channels.
 
Once the palettes are finalized, I create the color standards that go to our cross-functional teams, including the designers on our creative team and the textile specialists on our technical team. It’s an amazingly creative and niche role, but I’m still able to use my spreadsheet brain from back before I was in the world of color.
 
How did you end up in this role?
I honestly think everything started with my first box of Crayola crayons – the 64 count! Having access to all of those colors was a revelation — “A color named “periwinkle?!” Much later, while I was working in design graphics, I took a color test that showed I have “superior discrimination,” aka an excellent eye for color. When I found out about a job as a color coordinator for a major fashion brand, I jumped on it, and have been working with color ever since. Holiday 2007 was my first season working on color for Gap. (Fun fact: I also get to name our colors.)

So where do you find the inspiration and direction for creating Gap’s color palettes? 
I’m always on the lookout, keeping tabs on trends, building color stories, and watching how people actually wear color. I get a ton of inspiration from the energy of New York City itself — just walking down the street, seeing people going about their business, random street art, the lighting, the plant life, unexpected pops of color everywhere. I bring it all back to the colors Gap customers will love. We’re about optimistic, clear colors that balance back to our signature core color palette (white, black, navy, khaki and heather grey) and, of course, to our denim assortment.
 
What’s trending in the world of color right now?
It’s interesting to watch colors that started out being very edgy become mainstream. For example, burnt reds and oranges have been getting popular lately, and I’m starting to see a lot of golds and yellows. Lilac tones are everywhere this season – that may be the next evolution of “millennial pink,” which has been the “new black” for a while now.

Innovation is a big part of everything Gap does — how are we innovating in color?
We’re committed to creating product in a sustainable way, so our color standards are certified compliant with OEKO-TEX standards. That means our textiles are independently tested to ensure that they don’t contain harmful chemicals – it’s a voluntary standard that goes far beyond governmental requirements. We’re also looking into new sustainable initiatives, including better ways of dyeing with vegetable dyes and more efficient washes. And we share our innovations, colors, and best practices with our peers at Athleta, Banana Republic and Old Navy, so everyone benefits from the knowledge and testing that’s happening across the organization. That’s one of the best parts about being part of a portfolio of brands where everyone is hungry to learn from one another.
 
Interested in joining the always-colorful Gap team? Check out our open jobs in San Francisco and New York City. And follow us on LinkedIn to learn more about working at Gap.
 

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